March 26, 2013
By Charles Goldberg
AUBURN – Gus Malzahn is back in Auburn, and he's returned with an open mind.
"Every position is wide open. Everybody has a clean slate," says Auburn's football coach. "I've tried, even though I was here before, not to have any pre-judgments on any of the players. We're moving forward."
And it all begins, again, when the Tigers begin spring practice at 8 a.m. Wednesday. The next significant stop after that will be the A-Day Game on April 20. But even that won't close the book.
"We'll have a depth chart at the end of the spring, but, at the same time, the new guys coming in will be able to compete for positions in fall camp," Malzahn said.
Malzahn, known for his offense, begins spring camp with two returning quarterbacks in Kiehl Frazier and Jonathan Wallace. Frazier played for Malzahn in 2011. Malzahn recruited Wallace, too.
"We've got two of them going through the spring and it's wide open. If you talk to Coach Lashlee, it's the same way. There are no pre-judged ideas," Malzahn said.
Malzahn, who was Auburn's offensive coordinator from 2009-11, has returned after spending last season as the head coach at Arkansas State. That, he says, taught him about the demands on his time.
"The biggest difference is you have very little time for Xs and Os. You've got to have great trust in leadership on both sides of the football, which I do," he said.
Malzahn quickly hired his offensive and defensive leaders, naming Rhett Lashlee as his offensive coordinator and Ellis Johnson as his defensive coordinator. They've been together since December. Malzahn bought them a little extra time together by delaying the start of spring practice. Auburn is the last SEC team to begin spring drills.
The slogan, after last year's difficult season: "It's A New Day."
"Everything that happened last year is behind us," he said. "I feel good about where we're at going into the spring. Our whole goal is to get our edge back, back to playing good hard-nosed Auburn football. It's getting back to what Auburn is all about, and that's on the field and off the field, the community. It's everything."
It's everything for the new SEC coach, too.
"The fact that I was a high school head coach for 14 years really helps me," Malzahn said. "And the fact that last year, taking on a new job at a different level, was very beneficial for me to be in charge of everything and how everything works; and to understand the dynamics, not only on the field but off the field."
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